Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Friday, 27 January 2017

This year's New Year's resolution

In another New Year effort to be more organised in my blogging (last year’s resolution to blog books of the month foundered when I had a storm of writing in the autumn), I had my head in a book when I considered all the images of houses I had liked in books, and played with making a list of my favourites and scattering them through the year.

When I thought about houses and rooms I had liked in literature, it turned out that most of them that sprang to mind were in children’s literature, from the days when I had time to read and reread (and reread) books. It also turned out that they mostly had things in common: gardens or plants, books usually, cosiness, fireplaces, some clutter. For some of them, when I went to look for the passage that described the room, I found there wasn’t one, that impressions were scattered about: for others, my image has been coloured by a later film or television adaptation. Lots of lovely rooms, for example, in the 1995 BBC Pride & Prejudice, but Jane Austen doesn’t often waste her ivory on mere interior d├ęcor.

But for January I’ve chosen something a little different from the others in the series: a newish book, an adult book, and an African book, and it’s more the surroundings of the house that grab me than the inside. It’s from Sally Andrews’ Recipes for Love and Murder, set in South Africa near Ladysmith, a book I’ve previously reviewed here, I think.

“So there was Hattie, at my door. She didn’t have to knock because it’s always open. I love the fresh air, the smell of the veld with its wild bushes and dry earth, and the little sounds my chickens make when they scratch in the compost heap 

‘I do love your house,’ she said, patting my wooden kitchen table. ‘All the Oregon and the thick mud walls. It’s so . . . authentic.’ When Fanie died, I sold the house we had in town and got this one out here in the veld. ‘It’s a nice old farmhouse,’ I said. ‘What’s the matter, Hats?’ She sucked in her cheeks, like the words were falling back down her throat too fast. ‘Let’s sit on the stoep,’ I said, carrying the tray to the table and chairs outside. From my stoep you can see the garden with its lawn and vegetables and all the different trees. And then on the other side of my low wooden fence is the long dirt road leading up to my house, and the dry veld with its bushes and old gwarrie trees. The nearest house, is a few kilometres away, hidden behind a koppie, but the trees make good neighbours. Hattie smoothed her skirt under her as she sat down. I tried to catch her eye, but her gaze jumped all over the garden, like she was watching a bird flying about. One of my rust-brown hens came out from where she was resting under a geranium bush and helped herself to the buffet on the compost heap. But this wasn’t the bird Hattie was watching. Hers flew from the lemon tree to the vegetable patch then hopped from the lizard-tail bush to the honeybells and back again. I heard birds calling all around us, but could see nothing where she was looking.”

Andrew, Sally. Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery (Tannie Maria Mystery 1)

Tannie Maria is food-obsessed and her kitchen produces all kinds of delights, for some of which recipes are included at the back of the book. A house that produces good appetising food also hits the mark with me!

Meanwhile I've just finished Chapter Nine of Thicker than Water - blurb available soon, but it's the tenth Murray of Letho book (good gracious). I've ordered the cover from www.ellieallatsea.co.uk, as before - always something to look forward to! But I suppose that means I have to write the other sixteen chapters!

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